Watts statement admitted as evidence

2013-04-26 00:00

ESTATE agent Neville Watts told police before he died that uMungundlovu district councillors Lucky Moloi and Themba Zungu had made it clear to him that they wanted a commission in return for motivating the sale of MIB House to the municipality in 2003.

He was also told that another councillor, Alpha Shelembe, was to be “consulted” and understood that to mean that he would also be part of the deal to receive commission, Watts said in a statement made to Warrant Officer Sunette Potgieter.

The statement by Watts was yesterday admitted as evidence in the trial, on charges of corruption and money laundering, of former uMgungundlovu councillors Lucky Moloi and Alpha Shelembe as well as Shelembe’s wife, Joyful, his sister, Nelisiwe, and former bodyguard, Thembinkosi Xaba.

Zungu, a co-accused, died before the trial got under way.

Moloi and Shelembe are charged with having colluded with others (by virtue of their positions as councillors) to persuade the uMgungundlovu District Municipality to buy the MIB building for use as office and parking space at an inflated price of R6 850 000 in 2003 and pocketing some of the proceeds in the form of commission.

The seller had wanted R6 million for the property.

Their co-accused are charged with laundering the money to conceal its origin.

Watts, who died on January 24 this year, was a co-accused. He turned state witness in 2011 after pleading guilty to money laundering.

He was sentenced to a fine of R50 000 (or six years’ imprisonment), half of which was suspended, and to undergo two years of correctional supervision.

Regional magistrate Jaco Jordaan ruled yesterday that it was in the interests of justice to admit Watts’s statement as evidence, even though it was hearsay. The weight to be attached to it would be considered in the light of all the evidence, he added.

In his statement Watts said he became aware in 2002 that uMgungdlovu Municipality was looking for a property for parking for its staff near its headquarters in Langalibalele Street.

He knew of MIB House and with the co-owner, Gavin Breetzke, prepared a presentation to motivate the municipality to buy it. He spoke to both Moloi and the late Themba Zungu and suggested that MIB House would be a good investment for the municipality.

“Both Mr Moloi and Mr Zungu made it clear to me that they wanted commission in order to motivate the sale of MIB House to the council of the municipality. Mr Zungu at the same time informed me that another councillor of the municipality, one Mr Alpha Shelembe, whom I had never met, would have to be consulted.

“This I understood to mean that he would be part of the deal in receiving commission,” he said.

Watts said he knew that councillors were not entitled to the remuneration.

After Watts’s statement was admitted as evidence yesterday, the prosecution closed its case.

The trial will continue today with the defence case.

All the accused have denied any wrongdoing.

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